In the Senate on Thursday, Florida Sen.
Paul and Rubio are both seriously contemplating campaigns for the GOP presidential nomination, and Paul said the argument about how to pay -- or not pay -- for more military outlays shows that there are now two sides in the nomination fight; those who have the courage to rein in the debt and those who prefer to spend more for defense without matching reductions.
"I think there are a great deal of problems for people who want to argue that they are fiscal conservatives and yet would simply borrow hundreds of billions of dollars for defense," Paul said. "I think it is irresponsible and dangerous to the country to borrow so much money to add into defense."
Paul may have been more ideologically pure in his thinking, but he did not get many Republicans to go along with him. His amendment to the budget bill lost on a vote of 96 to 4.
Rubio’s approach had the support of another defense hawk and possible presidential contender, South Carolina Sen.
Justifying the lack of offsetting cuts in his proposed amendment, Rubio insisted that every other concern pales in comparison with the need for a strong defense. The GOP’s one officially announced candidate for president, Texas Sen.
In the wee hours this morning, the Senate passed a budget that matches the $612 billion in defense spending proposed by President
In the version of the 2016 budget just passed by House Republicans, the OCO gets $38 billion more than Obama allocated, thus allowing Speaker of the House John Boehner to claim his caucus is meeting budget-reduction targets while they are actually increasing spending. When the House and Senate budgets get reconciled, chances are good much of the increased OCO funding will be retained.
Meanwhile, as the Pentagon gets more, the rest of government will be kept on a very strict diet -- the rest of government that does things such as fund scientific research, conduct diplomacy, support education, protect the environment, sustain the national parks, build roads and bridges, inspect the food we eat and help out the poor. Even though military spending has gone down a bit in recent years, it still takes up more than half of the discretionary spending in the federal budget. By contrast, the much maligned food stamp program gets just a sliver of the 1% of discretionary spending that goes for agriculture and food programs.
And though Republican alarmists insist that America is losing its predominance as adversaries increase their own military budgets, the U.S. still spends as much on defense as the next nine of the top 10 countries combined.
If, as Graham infers, American soldiers are not getting the training and equipment they need, perhaps the answer is not spending more but spending more wisely. When deficit watchers go hunting for wasted government dollars, the Pentagon budget provides a target-rich environment. Bloated spending on unnecessary weapons programs could pay for plenty of training and equipment -- or cover the cost of many, many new highways and bridges, plus education and retraining for the working poor.